The opening of the Cestas solar park on the same day world leaders gather for the opening of the Paris climate talks is no coincidence.
The 300 MW solar park started feeding energy into the grid already in late October. Developers wanted to acknowledge the importance of renewable energy to the goals of the climate talks going on in Paris (and probably to boost their media coverage as well) by holding the grand opening the same Tuesday the COP21 talks start.
It seems like we shouldn't hold that against them, since meeting this deadline required installing 15,000 modules daily, managing 15-20 truckloads of components per day (according to pv-tech). Europe's largest solar park, covering 620 acres (250 hectares), will produce over 350 gigawatt-hours per year, about what the neighboring town of Bordeaux requires. That is equivalent to one-third of a nuclear power plant, the source of most of France's electrical energy in recent decades, and nearly three times as much power as France's next largest solar plant.
The combination of lots of southern French sun, reasonably available tracts of land, and solar panels made in China allow purchasers to enter contracts at 10.5 Euro cents per kilowatt-hour.
"Solar energy has become competitive. Our price is considerably lower than in the newest nuclear power plant, which France will build in British Hinkley Point ", CEO of the operating company neoen, Xavier Barbaro, told the German newspaper FAZ.
Although the comparison of power output with demand in Bordeaux makes a nice mental image of the supply and demand, the park will actually feed the high voltage network Réseau de transport d’électricité (RTE), which means Cestas will power activities all over France. Maybe President Obama's microphone in Paris even tasted a bit of the sun from the south of France.